Not all residents at Walnut Manor retirement home jumped to their feet to join in the popular Latin line dance.
But many tried the arm-tapping, hip-swinging dance from their chairs as a group of about 45 students from the neighborhood’s Betsy Ross Elementary School led the way with “Hey, Macarena!”
“That was really fun!” exclaimed 81-year-old Edith Flint, seated with a walker in front of her. “But I just couldn’t wiggle right!”
Walnut Manor resident Robert Schreiner, 89, also took part in the dance and afterward mused, “I’m better with macaroni than with the Macarena!”
The fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students made a special trip to Walnut Manor this week to entertain the elderly residents. Their visit put smiles on seniors’ faces as they learned the dance.
“I felt happy because we were doing something for them,” said sixth-grader Chelsey Poulos, 11. “It gets lonely for them in there. They felt special just because we came to see them.”
Fourth-grader Dennis Macauley, 9, said he was saddened to see older people who are sick. “I just wanted to help in some way,” he said.
Three years ago, teachers Connie Hutcheson and Kathy Zuorski began taking their students to visit the retirement home, which offers a range of services for residents, from those able to live independently to seniors needing full-time care.
“It’s a community service,” Zuorski said. “I think they see how fortunate they are when they see people who aren’t as healthy.”
Hutcheson said that, for the children, visiting the elderly is an eye-opener. The experience teaches them compassion and empathy and gives them a better understanding about elderly people, she said.
At holidays, students bring seniors handmade Valentines and Christmas ornaments. Earlier this year, they wrote them poems as part of “random acts of kindness day.” The teachers hope to start a program next year where seniors visit the school and read to students.
Esther Beilman, Walnut Manor’s director of volunteers, said residents enjoy the students’ visits and appreciate that, through the interaction, youngsters “get a positive affirmation that older people can be fun.”
Residents said they eagerly anticipate the visits.
“I love the children. They make us feel good,” said Helen Wittmann, 89, who taught elementary students for 37 years.
Cleita Devine, 90, agreed: “They make us feel enthusiastic about ourselves. They make us feel young.”